We all know the tried-and-true techniques of booking shows, but what about the unconventional? What about the weird and unusual ways that bands have secured gigs? When you’re feeling stuck or a little bored with the same ol’, same ‘ol, try out some of these unusual, but successful, tactics.
1. Try creative marketing
One of the best stories I’ve heard about unconventional booking is a classic case of creative marketing where the band put the venue owner’s needs ahead of their own and, as a result, not only successfully booked the show but had an incredible turn out and response.
Here’s what happened: The band told the venue owner they’d buy a keg of beer and give it to their fans for free. It was guaranteed to get a ton of people in the door, while giving the bar a hefty advance in alcohol sales. By the end of the night, they’d made back way more than the cost of the keg in merch sales alone.
Their success came from a combination of knowing what their fans and many live music attendees like (free beer), while keeping in mind the needs of the venue owner who has the ultimate goal of bringing in revenue for his business (pre-bought keg), and as a result, they created a win-win scenario for themselves. It’s all about thinking about the needs of others, meeting them, and in turn creating success for yourself.
2. Create an entire experience
What comes to mind when you think of booking your next show? It’s likely a variation on emailing the venue/promoter and hoping for the best. But there are a lot of different ways to put on a show, and as I outlined in the last point, the more creative the better.
Established clubs are great for a built-in audience, but they aren’t the only option. You can throw house shows or play parties, festivals, local events, or get really clever with a custom experience made exclusively for fans.
“My folk duo (The Tide Rose) had our EP release show take place on a canal cruise in Richmond, VA," says Whitney Caroline. "It was an idea that came to mind as we were recording the music, which is inspired by the ocean. The boat held 35 people, so we rented the boat as a private charter and sold tickets. Our first show sold out! We had snacks on the boat and gave each of our guests a souvenir with a tiny red rose, sand, and a small note that said, 'Thank you for sailing with us!' Guests took a lot of pictures and some videos. It was an absolute blast!”
Creating a one-of-a-kind experience for fans doesn’t have to fall into the hands of someone else. Get a little creative, be a little bold, and you can book your own unique show for your fans.
3. Unleash the power of social media
Social media is an incredibly useful tool. You know this. It’s already such a powerful way to connect with new fans, but have you been using it to connect with other musicians, promoters, venue owners, etc. both in your city and in the cities you hope to one day tour?
There’s a multitude of ways to incorporate social media into your booking routine, including networking in your city’s music-centric groups (the YEP Nashville group comes to mind), or using social media to find bands in certain cities, getting to know them, and securing a spot on each other’s bills. It’s important to note that this tactic should not be harassing venues or promoters through Facebook or just messaging a band about what you want from them. It’s about using the power of social media, Facebook groups, and online communities to create, grow, and nurture genuine relationships.
Through getting to know other musicians, promoters, and venue owners on the platforms you’re already frequenting, you’re increasing your odds of booking success down the road.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with it! Cover a local artist’s songs, tag them in your promotion, and get to know them. A little flattery never hurt anyone!